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Yellow fever epidemics in Alabama and free land

Yellow fever epidemics and Free Land

Yellow fever epidemics were particularly difficult in Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama during 1853 and 1870’s. Recently, a mass burial site was uncovered in Montgomery, Alabama. It was thought to be from the Yellow Fever epidemic in 1878.

People fled epidemics in Alabama

Over the years, Mobile, Alabama was particularly hard hit. This is probably due to having a harbor where ships from other countries arrived and often introduced various diseases. Quarantine was usually the only answer before vaccinations and antibiotics. People avoided plagued areas while a disease raged throughout the community. Often several members of a family fell victim to a virulent disease as did my own Pratt ancestors shortly after they arrived in Alabama. Organizations such as the “Can’t Get Away Club” were formed to help others during the crisis.

In the 1850’s, several epidemics occurred in Alabama as well as other states. I’m sure this caused people to leave the state to avoid the epidemic as we discover many Alabamians traveled west around these years. Severe epidemics occurred again in 1873, and 1878 and then again we find people leaving Alabama.

Others wanted free land

Others fled Alabama to claim land in the west through the Homestead Act of 1862. New settlers were given a homestead title for approximately160 acres of the undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi if they met simple requirements. The applicant had to be 21 or older and never taken up arms against the U.S. Government. The settlers included the newly freed slaves. Then all the settlers had to do was live on the land for five years and show evidence of improvements.

A similar law, the Preemption Act of 1841, help settle Alabama. This law permitted squatters who were living on federal government-owned land to purchase the land before it was offered for sale to the general public. Many people in Alabama were able to purchase their land for a very low price, usually around $1.25 an acre through this law. The law was lucrative for the state of Alabama as well since the state received 10% of the proceeds from the sale of public land within the state. Any citizen (or person with intent to become naturalized) listed as the head of household over 21 (this included widows) who resided on the claimed land for a minimum of 14 months was considered a squatter. Residence could be claimed by living on the land or by consistently working the land for a minimum of five years. If the land remained idle for six months, the government could take the property.

Many of the large plantations in Alabama were owned by absentee landlords of South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and even Maryland during this time. Many actual residents of early Alabama were small farmers trying to improve their lot in life on the new frontier rather than huge plantation owners.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Confrontation:: Lost & Forgotten Stories

Prior to statehood, Alabama was a vast wilderness with a large Native American population. It is only natural that when new immigrants from other states arrived, conflicts over the land would arise. Soon, these small conflicts exploded into war.

Alabama Footprints Confrontation is a collection of lost and forgotten stories that reveals why and how the confrontation between the Native American population and settlers developed into the Creek-Indian War as well as stories of the bravery and heroism of participants from both sides.
Some stores include:

  • Tecumseh Causes Earthquake
  • Terrified Settlers Abandon Farms
  • Survivor Stories From Fort Mims Massacre
  • Hillabee Massacre
  • Threat of Starvation Men Turn To Mutiny
  • Red Eagle After The War

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Confrontation:: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 4) (Kindle Edition)

By (author):  Causey, Donna R

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. Does anyone know of a video about Dallas Mill in Huntsville, taken prior to tearing it down.

  2. Yellow fever brought down the old town site at Blakeley population less than 2000. Also during that time ship passengers was stoped due to the fever. Now while in Mobile. Ala. Some of the old bricks was removed from homes in Blakely and carried across the bay and even today still can see houses still standing.

    1. Theresa Pearce thank you ma’am!

  3. My family has searched for over 50 years about where our ancestor is buried. His name was Samuel Jordan 1807-1853. We knew he had died in Montgomery before 1855 of yellow fever. We figured he must have been buried in the mass grave mentioned in the story. A few months ago someone updated a cemetery on Find A Grave in Macon County, Alabama (Walker Family Cemetery). They added Samuel Jordan and his wife Sarah Dabney Walker to the FAG site. I have been unable to verify this source because the person who added the 20 odd more graves will not answer e-mails. It is said that there are 7 generations of Walkers buried here. I am thinking Edmund Winston Walker 1770-1839 is also buried here as he cannot be found anywhere else. Edmund has 3 children buried here. The older Walkers and Jordans came from Campbell, Virginia.

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